By Naomi Cummings, Executive Director, The Bridge to Hope
When I landed here in 2009, our agency looked very different than it does today. We were still a secret location, without signage, and in a very old and dilapidated house. A local law enforcement official confided that many of his staff members considered us to be man-hater’s. The number of hot-line calls we got annually were about 300; they are now over 2,000. We have evolved and grown in so many ways over the years.
In 2009 our website looked like someone had typed it on an old manual typewriter. We eventually caught up with technology. In 2011 we started our Facebook page and were one of the first domestic abuse agencies to add a text hot-line. We all beamed in pride in 2012 when we were awarded the Non-Profit of the Year award by the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce. And we couldn’t believe our luck when the Green Bay Packers chose us in 2015 to be the recipients of a Packer Tailgate Party. That same year a very generous family gifted us $200,000 to lay the foundation for a capital campaign which resulted in the purchase of our much-expanded facility on 4th Avenue that tripled our size and that truly offered victims space for healing.
While we have provided services to domestic abuse victims since the beginning, there has been a growing realization that we needed to expand the scope of our victim services. In 2013 we started a support group for male victims. Our newsletters started to include articles about animal abuse and its link to domestic abuse. We began to raise awareness that folks that identified as LGBTQ+ were victimized at higher rates, and that our services needed to be open and welcoming to them as well. Our services to sexual assault victims expanded, and we were able to provide an advocate on campus at UW-Stout. Human trafficking victims also sought our services and we worked to educate our community about the myths and realities of trafficking.
Throughout all of this, I have continually stood in awe of my co-workers who have unselfishly, (and sometimes bravely) stepped up to serve victims. They have undoubtedly saved lives as they safety planned with victims after they had been assaulted. They have collaborated with local law enforcement to provide wrap-around services to the highest risk victims. They took crisis calls at 2:00 a.m. and breathed calmly with victims who were heading into full-blown panic attacks. I’ve watched them soothing scared kids, sing to brand new babies, and order abusive partners to get out of our parking lot. They are amazing, strong, and committed, and it’s been an honor to work with them.
As I wrap up my long tenure as Executive Director of The Bridge to Hope, I look back over the past twelve years with gratitude. I will always be grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to serve victims and survivors, to work with amazing people who are committed to justice and equity, and that I’ve been able to witness how we have transformed lives and planted seeds of hope…together. Thank you.
The Bridge to Hope is currently raising funds for the animals in their shelter. Follow this link to a post with more information.